By Bill Parry
When U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) faces challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Tuesday’s congressional primary, it will be a match of old school vs. new school. Crowley, 56, represents New York’s 14th Congressional District and holds the fourth-highest ranking position in the House Democratic leadership. Ocasio-Cortez is an insurgent progressive from the Bronx, a 28-year-old who organized for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) during his failed bid for the presidency in 2016.
The difference between the two was clear during their one and only debate last Friday on NY1. Crowley, who is being opposed in a primary for the first time in 14 years, came under attack for leading the Queens County Democratic Party while holding office.
“I just think it’s completely inappropriate to be chairman of a local Democratic party,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders was the head of the national (Democratic Party) while responsible for their own endorsements and the endorsement of others.”
Crowley was unapologetic, saying during his time as head of the Queens Democrats he had helped many candidates of color get elected, ensuring the district’s and city’s leaders represent their constituencies.
“I am very proud of my record of electing progressive Democrats in Queens County whether it’s in the judiciary or elected office,” he said. “Virtually every person in Queens County is a Democrat, in no small part because of my efforts.”
Crowley said he helped elect U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), the first Asian-American sent to the House of Representatives from the East Coast and that he supported Francisco Moya when he became the first Ecuadorian-American elected to state office in the Assembly. Moya is now in the City Council.
“But I also take it on the road nationally helping Democrats win, because I think it is critical — facing what we are today with this president — that we win back the House of Representatives at all costs,” Crowley said. “We have to win, because if we don’t, serious damage will be done to our democracy.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she has rejected all corporate money and is the only candidate in the race who supports “improved and expanded Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college and the abolition of ICE.”
Crowley explained that abolishing ICE would not solve the problem of taking the power out of the hands of Attorney General Jeff Sessions or President Donald Trump.
“We know it’s about making change in Washington,” he said. “It’s about Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives. That is what I’m going to do this November.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr